Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 15th January 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Reflection for Friday 15th January 2021. A transition into ordinary time
Last Sunday evening the Christmas season drew to a close and we once again entered into ordinary time. Green is the predominant liturgical colour. We do not leave the Christmas season behind but carry its values and the blessings we received into the next season and in order to make the transition as fruitful as we possibly can, we need to see what lessons we can take from the rather muted Christmas celebrations of 2020.
Those who monitor human development tell us that every stage of development is characterized by crisis. Furthermore we are told that crisis connotes two aspects viz. danger and opportunity. If I only see the danger I will miss the opportunities and if I only see the opportunities I will place myself at risk. What is needed is balance and a sober look at the situation. Being muted and in the context of a crisis with so much threat to life around us, we had to look deeply in order to see the opportunity. For me, several opportunities arose. Firstly there was more time for reflection. There was a greater awareness that we are dependent on God. We are also dependent on each other calling forth from each other the responsibility for social distancing, sanitizing and the wearing of face masks. For families there was the possibility of locating the body of Christ in the home. There are four levels of Church and the body of Christ in the home is the essential building block for other levels.
We also nurtured in us a longing for the sacraments and for community worship as we knew it. This longing is a viable stage in Christian spirituality. St Catherine of Sienna reminds us that we have been created to desire God. We gave up the privilege of worshipping with others and receiving the sacraments in order to promote the wellbeing of ourselves and of others. In the urban centres of the world many have grown accustomed to daily Mass – but in the rural mission territories, some have Mass once every six weeks. I worked in such a place and have encountered great faith in the areas around Estcourt and Wembezi in KwaZulu-Natal. I have been fortunate to celebrate Mass in great Basilicas. These were wonderful experiences especially in Rome and above the tomb of St Eugene de Mazenod in Marseille. But celebrating Mass in a make-shift church surrounded by shacks was also uplifting as I witnessed the Body of Christ come alive not only ON the make shift altar but also AROUND that altar where the faithful gathered. St Paul reminds us that we are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and those communities of the poor and dispossessed testified to that. They longed for the sacrament and rejoiced when they could celebrate and receive the Eucharist. The longing created an expectation and a scared space within each heart. This is what the Christian virtue of hope is all about. We cannot hope for something we already have.
Something else that has crept in imperceptibly is a more reflective attitude. This was a particular grace during the quiet season of Christmas. Our rituals are not automatic gestures. They invite us to participate in the mysteries we celebrate. These rituals show us the meaning of worship – especially that it has to be different from other routine aspects of life. In worship we enter into sacred space. Like Moses we have to take off the shoes of routine and mundane existence (Exodus 3:5 and cited in Acts 7:33) because our worship places us on holy ground. We have to maintain the attitude of worship being special and cut off from the ordinary. It is only when our worship is genuine that we can meaningfully cope with what is routine and mundane. To the extent that I have a deep encounter with the Lord, I will be able to have a meaningful dialogue with the world.
I wish you a meaningful transition into the new liturgical season.
Prayer: Lord of times and seasons – we give you grateful thanks for the many opportunities you give us to discover your love and to grow in it. We thank you for Christmas season which we have recently celebrated. Thank you for the wonder of the Word made flesh. May we who have celebrated Christmas take its values into our daily lives and make your love known to all with whom we interact, and in that way allow your word to be seen in our human flesh. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen[Blessing].
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town